6 Ways to Spot a Predatory Journal

4 min read
First Published: 
Jul 2017

Key Learnings contained in this article:

So, you’ve completed your research, written your paper and now you want to publish your results. Simple.

The new era of Open Access publishing has made publication of scientific research easier and more accessible. This new publishing platform allows for greater visibility of research within the scientific community and the public eye.

Open Access journals operate on an author-pays business model, whereby the author pays a fee to have their research published online. Publishing online allows authors to side-step the barriers of print, meaning their work is more quickly published and has free availability to a wider audience.

With huge benefits to Open Access publishing for both authors and readers, there are now hundreds of new open access journals being set up by reputable publishers. However, this rise in popularity has also opened to the door to less respectable, ‘predatory’ journals that are abusing the author-pay model and risking the integrity of published research.

Predatory journals are scam publishers that charge authors fees upfront, but do not provide the service they promise. The majority of these predatory journals will take payments without ever publishing the work, while others publish articles without any form of an editorial or peer review process.

These journals will often have professional-looking websites, list an accredited editorial team and advertise their memberships to professional organisations that promote publishing best practices. Many predatory journals tend to send out phishing emails asking individuals to submit their articles or invitations to become a member of the editorial team.

How can you recognise and avoid falling victim to a predatory journal?

1. Always check the website thoroughly

Often, a tell-tale sign of a predatory journal is the mistakes in both spelling and grammar on their website. Poor use of language shows a low professional standard.

The journals’ fees should be clearly stated on the website and should only be requested from the author after the article has been accepted for publication. If a journal requests a submission fee before the article is accepted, this may be a predatory journal.

2. Check if the journal is a member of DOAJ, COPE, OASPA or STM

If they advertise membership to the Directory of Open Access Journal (DOAJ), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) or International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), check their membership on the relevant website. These associations are all reputable organisations that vet their members for adherence to publishing standards. If in doubt, send an email to the organisation, and they should be able to confirm or deny membership.

3. Check the journal’s contact information

It is important to ensure there is verifiable contact information that matches the advertised nationality of the journal. Often predatory journals state that their offices are in one country, whereas the contact details will be in another. Check that the time-stamps of incoming emails are during working hours of the country of origin, ensure the phone number has the correct country-code, and if they provide an address, search for it!

4. Research the editorial board

One way to look credible is to list experts in the field as members of the editorial board. Often predatory journals will create fake scholars or they will list scholars without their permission. One way to know for sure, is to check the professional online profiles of named individuals through their listed institution page, LinkedIn or Research Gate. If there is no mention of the journal, then proceed with caution.

5. Take a look at their peer review process and publication timelines

Peer review is essential to uphold the quality of scientific articles and journals. The peer review process is an important stamp of approval for the publication of academic research. When an article is published in a scientific journal, readers can assume the information published is reliable, credible, and has been evaluated by an editor and at least two independent experts in the field. Predatory journals tend to miss this peer review process out completely. If the journal advertises exceptionally quick peer review timelines, investigate them further, and ensure they state online their peer review policy in full.

6. Read through past issues of the journal

Many predatory journals will publish any and all articles that are submitted to them. Read through past issues of the journal and see whether the articles published are true to the journals’ advertised speciality areas; if a cancer journal is publishing articles on the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, you can assume their editorial policies are lacking! If you find articles with many mistakes this could show their poor Peer Review process! Also, if past issues are missing or listed as ‘coming soon’, this could be a strong sign that the journal is not legitimate.

Think. Check. Submit. is a new campaign led by multiple publishing organisations to try and raise awareness of Predatory Journals. Its aim is to force authors to think carefully before submitting their research. Take a look at our printable publication checklist to help guide you through your choice!

Good luck with your research, and follow the steps above to give you confidence in your choice of publication vehicle.

Get the Predatory Journal Checklist

Ensure the credibility of your chosen journal and protect the integrity of your research. Use our comprehensive guide to steer clear of predatory journals and confidently publish your findings.

Victoria Glasson
Writer for Rx Communications Ltd
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